IGF Factor 2014: Dominique Pamplemousse

By John Walker on March 20th, 2014 at 1:00 pm.

Dominique Pamplemousse in “It’s All Over Once The Fat Lady Sings!” is a stop motion animated musical detective adventure game about gender. “Another one,” you wail, and yet it’s nominated for thousands of IGF awards, including Narrative, Audio, Nuovo and the Grand Prize. Today’s IGF Factor sits down with the game’s writing, programming, musicing creator, Deirdra Kiai, to pick over the creation of the game.

RPS: First off, can you introduce yourself, explain who you are, what you do, and why you do it?

I’m Deirdra Kiai; I’m called Squinky by my friends. I do a number of weird, creative, artsy things — I write stories, I write code, I make music, I make visual art. I used to work in the videogame industry. Currently, I’m a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz. While making Dominique Pamplemousse, I was a freelancer working alone in my apartment while also playing in a band on most weekends. My most creatively fulfilling career strategy seems to be to go wherever the interesting opportunities and people are, even if it means taking risks and pay cuts. I do it because I’m really, really bad at being a normal adult.

RPS: The IndieGoGo campaign was a close one. Why do you think people were slow to fund a game that’s proven to be so critically popular?

Frankly, I’m not surprised at all that the campaign didn’t hit Double Fine levels of overfunding; I’m more surprised by the “critically popular” part. I knew from the start that I was making something weird and unusual that requires somewhat of an acquired taste, and the game wasn’t done yet, so it was harder to sell based on a demo alone. Plus, while I had fans of my previous work, I wasn’t, like, super well-known yet, and didn’t have the weight of previous critically acclaimed titles behind me.

In the end, though, I did consider the campaign a hard-won success, seeing as I’d never made anywhere near close to that amount of money on something I made all by myself. I really pushed myself hard, and it was exhausting, but worth it. And, to be honest, I’m glad I wasn’t overfunded, and that I got exactly the amount I asked for. It’s unfortunate that it’s become the defacto standard that all projects will be overfunded and there will be stretch goals, but I launched my game on time and on budget, and successfully delivered all of its rewards — apparently, that’s somewhat unusual.

RPS: What’s the experience been like since the release of Dominique Pampelmousse?

It was a slow launch. I was still burned out by the crowdfunding campaign, so I didn’t have enough energy in me to do a big marketing push — as far as I was concerned, I’d gotten my funding to make the game and I was happy. Some people loved it and some people couldn’t get past the kitschy production values. But the people who got it really got it, and I was thrilled nevertheless.

I entered the game in IndieCade, where it was very well-received and made it as an Official Selection. With that response, I figured, maybe I might have a shot at the IGF, so I entered that as well. I thought maybe it might be cool if I got a Nuovo nomination, or even an honourable mention. I was very, very surprised when I wound up in four categories, including the Grand Prize. Considering that no game I’d ever entered before had even gotten close to that, it was a bit of a shock.

Now, I’m gearing up for a March 11 re-release on Steam and Humble [this interview was conducted in the past, obviously --Timeline Ed], with the help of my producer and professional extrovert, John “Seg” Seggerson. I’m looking forward to the game finding an even bigger audience and being discovered by more and more people, particularly folks who don’t normally play games — the kinds of people I’d most like to reach.

RPS: You have always shown that videogames are a great medium for exploring personal issues – do you think the wider market is beginning to realise this too? Do you think gaming and gaming narratives are becoming more inclusive? Or is there still a long, long way to go?

Yes.

Standard programmer’s answer, I know. To elaborate, I feel that for a while now — and I was recently having a conversation with a friend about this — the audience for videogames has been way smarter and insightful than most marketing folks have historically believed. There’s been excellent games criticism on the internet for over a decade, and I think that finally, games are really starting to catch up and challenge their audiences in ways they haven’t been able to before, by bringing in these new, diverse voices.

At the same time, there’s still so much toxic masculinity and hegemonic power structures in game culture, both in players and developers. It reflects society, which itself still has a long way to go. And as things get better, they also get worse; when people invested in the status quo feel threatened, there’s always backlash in a big way, which gets scary.

RPS: How do you feel about the IGF nominations?

Nervous and excited. Like I said, I wasn’t expecting this. But I feel like even if I don’t win anything, being nominated is such an honour. If I go through the rest of my life and nothing else I do receives this much recognition, I’ll still feel like I’ve accomplished a lot.

I’m also amazingly flattered to be in such great company with the other nominees. I mean, Device 6, Papers Please, and Stanley Parable are also nominated for the main GDC awards, which is super impressive.

RPS: Which game would you like to see taking the Grand Prize this year?

All of them.

RPS: Thanks for your time.

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15 Comments »

  1. QuaKe0515 says:

    I’d give it a whirl if I wouldn’t be so goddamn terrified of clay motion.

  2. toxic avenger says:

    The comments on steam reviews have been absolutely horrible, as in, losing my faith in humanity horrible. So I bought…a few. Least I can do to make sure more things like this are available for the people who need them, and/or for the rest of us too. Looks like a cute game (haven’t gotten around to trying it) to boot. If it pisses people like that off in the process, that’s a bonus, I guess.

    • G-Lord says:

      Yeah, I barely believed my eyes when reading some of the stuff in the STEAM forums. From what I’ve seen from the game it is probably also not my cup of tea, but I feel no need to be insulting about it.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      I’ll follow your lead and buy a copy (not that the interview didn’t help). Most people might not like the game, but we need to support this kind of stuff in order to let videogames grow in all sorts of directions.

  3. Acorino says:

    Squinky is a lovely person, but I never managed to connect to her style of wacky, off-beat humor.
    Dominique Pamplemousse seems at the same time to be lovely and tiring to me.

  4. Baf says:

    I wouldn’t call it a game “about gender”. There’s more material in it about autotune than about gender.

    • djbriandamage says:

      You’re correct but that’s precisely what made it so poignant for me.

      The protagonist shrugs off the idea of gender so nonchalantly that THAT becomes noteworthy. It takes a topic I had assumed was obvious and matter-of-factly proposes an alternative. That made me think about the topic without being preached at which is a very mature way of presenting an argument.

  5. DrLeoWollman says:

    I finally got around to buying the game thanks to this interview and it’s really lovely. Absolutely worth it if you’re intrigued by the demo.

    I simply cannot understand the attitude that seems to be so prevalent amongst vocal Steam users that the game isn’t worth its price tag purely because it only offers a certain length of gameplay. The sheer amount of love and effort that has so obviously gone into it makes it worth your $5 regardless of how many hours it takes to play it.

    We’ve all argued this to death before, but I’d rather pay five bucks for an hour and a half of adorable, idiosyncratic musical joy than ten hours of bland committee-crafted mediocrity.

  6. djbriandamage says:

    I bought and played this before it was out on Steam so I haven’t seen the vitriol people are mentioning here. I’ll have to provide a counterpoint on there, as I want to do now.

    This game is so adorable and lovable. It’s a simple game but combines many artistic and technological innovations. It’s monochrome, it’s musical (and times the user-prompted singing with the persistent background music), it’s claymation in little shoebox dioramas… It’s like a list of all the things other devs cut from their design documents for being overambitious.

    It’s good, it’s bad, and it’s so bad it’s good. It’s charming and corny and above all, it’s fearless.

  7. Cutter says:

    Pamplemousse was one of the first words I learned in french. Probably because it sounds so damn whacky.

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